Fear of new showdown on Egypt streets in 'Friday of martyrs'

CAIRO Thu Aug 22, 2013 5:35pm EDT

1 of 6. Egyptian army soldiers and medics escort former president Hosni Mubarak after he arrives at a military hospital in the southern suburb of Maadi on the outskirts of Cairo, August 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

Related Topics

CAIRO (Reuters) - Supporters of Egypt's deposed president will stage a "Friday of martyrs" of mass protests, risking more potential bloodshed to show they can still claim the streets after a week in which hundreds were gunned down and their leaders jailed.

Egyptians are enduring the bloodiest civil unrest of their modern history after the military overthrew Mohamed Mursi on July 3 following demonstrations against his rule.

In a symbolic victory for the army-dominated old order, former autocrat Hosni Mubarak - toppled in a 2011 pro-democracy uprising - was freed from jail on Thursday, while his freely elected successor Mursi remains imprisoned.

A seven-week standoff turned into a bloodbath when the security forces dispersed Mursi's supporters' protest camps on August 14. They have since launched a campaign of arrests designed to break Mursi's 85-year-old Muslim Brotherhood, seizing figures that include its "general guide", Mohamed Badie.

At least 900 people, including 100 soldiers and police, have been killed in the past eight days, according to government sources. Brotherhood supporters say the real figure is far higher.

In recent days, Brotherhood protests that once attracted tens of thousands of people at locations across the country have ebbed, suggesting the group's famed organizational strength may have been damaged by the arrest of its leaders. Friday's protests will be a test of its resilience.

"We will remain steadfast on the road to defeating the military coup," a pro-Mursi alliance called the National Coalition to Support Legitimacy and Reject the Coup said in a statement. It named 28 mosques in Greater Cairo as points of departure for the protests.

The clampdown appears to have weakened the Arab world's oldest and most influential Islamist group, which survived for generations as an underground movement before emerging as Egypt's most organized political force when Mubarak fell.

The Brotherhood won five successive votes in Egypt following the 2011 uprising, but many Egyptians accused it of trying to monopolize power during Mursi's year in office, and huge crowds rallied against Mursi before the army removed him.

MUBARAK'S RELEASE

For Mubarak's enemies, the former autocrat's release marked a reversal of the 2011 pro-democracy uprising that brought down a military man who ruled for three decades as one of the pillars of authoritarianism in the Middle East.

A blue-and-white helicopter took Mubarak on Thursday from Cairo's Tora prison, where scores of his supporters had gathered to hail his release. He was flown to a military hospital in the nearby southern suburb of Maadi, officials said.

Mubarak's release plays into the Brotherhood's argument that the military is trying to rehabilitate the old order. The army-installed government casts its conflict with the Islamist movement as a life-or-death struggle against terrorism.

"Mubarak will never be an important political player, but symbolically, it's a victory dance by the reconstituted old state," Joshua Stacher, an Egypt expert at Kent State University in the United States, said of the former leader's release.

Adding to a sense among some activists that the freedoms won in the 2011 revolt are in danger, planned amendments to the constitution leaked to the media this week appear designed to place limits on political parties and ease restrictions on the participation of Mubarak-era officials in politics.

But some Egyptians, many of whom have rallied behind the army's crackdown, expressed fondness for the 85-year-old former air force commander whose tight grip on power brought stability.

"He protected the country," said Lobna Mohamed, a housewife in the crowd of Mubarak well-wishers. "He is a good man, but we want (Abdel Fattah) Sisi now," she said, referring to the army commander who overthrew Mursi and has become the face of the new army-backed government.

Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to prevent the killing of demonstrators. A court accepted his appeal earlier this year and ordered a retrial in the case, for which he has already served the maximum amount of pretrial detention.

MORE UPHEAVAL?

The military's declared plan for a return to democracy has yet to calm the most populous Arab nation, where security forces impose a nightly curfew as they hunt down Brotherhood leaders.

Alarmed by the bloodshed, the United States and European Union are reviewing their aid to Cairo.

Saudi Arabia, an enemy of the Brotherhood, has promised to cover any shortfall. It and other rich Gulf Arab states have already pledged $12 billion since Mursi's fall.

EU foreign ministers stopped short of agreeing immediate cuts in aid to Egypt on Wednesday, in part because of concern that doing so could damage any future EU mediation effort.

An EU attempt to broker a compromise collapsed before security forces cleared out the Brotherhood protest camps.

James Moran, the bloc's ambassador in the Egyptian capital, described reconciliation prospects as a huge challenge.

"Passions are high, emotions are high. Things have to cool off a little bit," he said. "One thing is for sure - the Islamist constituency is there, and you are going to have to find a way somehow of living with it."

(Additional reporting by Yasmine Saleh, Tom Perry, Alistair Lyon, Michael Georgy and Asmaa Al-Sharif in Cairo; Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Andrew Roche and Peter Graff)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (15)
With news of the acquittal and imminent release of Egypt’s deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak, the military regime has exposed its ugly face to full view. Since the counterrevolutionary coup began on 30 June, the Egyptian people have been subjected to unprecedented brutal and humiliating persecution. This has eroded much of what had been accomplished by the revolution of January 2011.

The crackdown on peaceful rallies in Cairo’s Rabaa and Nahda squares on “black Wednesday” last week resulted in the deaths of many more than those reported killed in any single day by Bashar al-Assad or Muammar Gaddafi during the Syrian and Libyan revolutions. The numbers killed since the start of the coup are estimated at more than double those killed during the 2008 Israeli assault on Gaza.

Egyptians, and much of the world, watched in horror as the military and police stormed into the camps, torched tents while people were still sleeping inside them, and killed and maimed indiscriminately. Since then other massacres have been perpetrated in various parts of the country. Mosques were attacked to flush out protesters seeking refuge inside them, while evidence is emerging that some churches were torched in an attempt to implicate the Muslim Brotherhood and allied Islamists and thus justify the crackdown on them.

Crimes against humanity previously unheard of are being perpetrated in a systemic fashion with the aim of terrorising the entire population into submission to the new coup authorities. What remains of press and TV channels is under the absolute control of those in power and their task is to justify their brutality.

Yet, despite all this, the people of Egypt remain defiant. The past few days have proven beyond doubt that nothing the coup authorities do will extinguish the struggle for freedom and dignity. Rallies continue to be organised in support of legitimacy and democracy across the country. The more people die, the more people take to the streets.

The coup leaders and their media seek to convince local as well as international public opinion that they are fighting terrorism and that what they are doing is justifiable. Such terrorism, they claim, is led or incited by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood is committed to peaceful protests and has pledged never to resort to violence in response to the violence perpetrated against it by the coup authorities. We believe that our peacefulness is a more powerful weapon than all the killing machines employed by the army or the police.

The worst terrorism that exists in Egypt today is that perpetrated against the people by the coup alliance, which conspired with the aid of Arab monarchies in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Jordan, fully supported and lobbied for by Israel and with complicity of the United States of America and its western allies, in order to kill the Egyptian dream and undermine the Arab spring.

State institutions in Egypt, including the army, the police and the judiciary, have been hijacked and turned into tools of oppression. Those who willingly or knowingly participate in this project are hereby warned that they will one day, sooner or later, be brought to justice. I appeal to army and police officers and soldiers to rid themselves of the military uniform and go home.

The Egyptian people have decided to be true to their humanity and conscience. They are determined to rise up to defend their country against dictatorship and tyranny. They aim for a free and prosperous future for their children.

For the sake of Egypt, we will continue to take to the streets across the country peacefully to declare this coup null and void. General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is pushing the country to an unprecedented level of chaos and state violence but we will not give him a chance to turn our beloved Egypt into another Syria, or to escape questioning about his crimes.

I address world conscience and public opinion. I appeal to world humanitarian and human rights organisations. I appeal to the international delegations that came to see us in Rabaa and who testified that we were completely peaceful, to stand for democracy and expose these war crimes.

The sacrifices made so far by the defenders of legitimacy have been made in order to put an end to the military rule that humiliated the Egyptians and persecuted them for more than 60 years. We made these sacrifices in order for Egypt to become a true democratic civil state in which human dignity is sanctified and human rights respected.

These sacrifices will continue until the Egyptian dream comes true. The counter-revolution will be defeated and the great Egyptian revolution will prevail.Despite loss of influence,Muslim brotherhood branches stay strong; in other words, despite the arrests of anti coup alliance leaders,majority of Egyptians ( including all other groups that protested against Hosni Mubarak regime) are still against the military rule!

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/21/muslim-brotherhood-violence-egypt#start-of-comments

The symbolism is clear coming from a completely revanchist judiciary, that even the symbolic victory of imprisoning Mubarak will be revoked, that the counter-revolution and the old regime are feeling empowered and petty.The judiciary and the police are the two institutions that are most entrenched and most a part of the old regime; they were on their heels for a while, but using the bogeymen of the Muslim Brotherhood and people’s fear and exhaustion, they’re just doing whatever they feel like to be personally spiteful and cruel even.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/21/hosni-mubarak-freed-prison-egypt

Israel, well known for it’s oppressions for palestinians and it’s involvement to conspire to over throw a first freely elected president in Egypt will soon be cleaned out of the map as it attracts it’s own enemies. Just keep watching the Arabs uniting against all Middle eastern leaders who keeps a blind eye to the Palestinians injustices done by Israel. Tell me Why ISRAEL HAS WALLS AROUND AND CHECK POINTS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY? WHAT ARE THEY AFRAID OF ? MOST CERTAINLY NOT THE PALESTINIANS WHO USE ROCKS TO FIGHT THE ISRAELIS TANKS AND DRONES. ISRAEL IS AFRAID OF THE POWERFUL NEIGHBORS like Egypt under Morsi and surrounding neighbors WHO CANT SIT AND WATCH ISRAEL CAUSE THE MOST INHUMAN ACTS AGAINST ITS NEIGHBORS. Hence Israel uses fear to commit and justify their attacks on poor Palestinians and in this case conspire against a freely elected president. They have repressed The Palestinians to the point that everything that is shipped to Palestine has to go throw the Israel Customs? Their day is coming. Sooner than they expect! I hope to live and see the end of Israel!

Aug 22, 2013 3:57am EDT  --  Report as abuse
BanglaFirst wrote:
Egyptian evil Mafia boss is released to 5 Star living and jails for elected Government! Wonderful turn of events but for how long before these evil military people are all rounded up for certain trial & deaths since they killed & maimed thousands in the recent past ignoring local as well as World opinions.

Aug 22, 2013 10:13am EDT  --  Report as abuse
oxen wrote:
The mobs and the opportunists were so dunce that they danced celebrated with fireworks when the Al-Sisi tyrant carried out a coup. Now they have started to get their rewards. About 1000 dead Egyptian citizens, the tyrant Mubarak released and provided protection at a nice villa they will dupe the mobs to believe is house arrest, the appointment of generals as governors, and total control of the economy and all power of govt by the military junta with sycophants used as faces for the regime. Egypt is truly qualifies as backward uncivilised place.

Aug 22, 2013 12:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus